Humans are by nature creative. We’re makers, designers, producers, idea-generators. Creating is one of the things we humans are really good at—and our creativity is a big reason why we work.

Too many people today are disengaged from their work and show up only for the paycheck. But financial rewards are not the first things people look for in a career. A sense of purpose ranks much higher.

Here’s how psychologist Barry Schwartz, in a TED talk about work, describes why many of us we do what we do: “It’s challenging, it’s engaging, it’s stimulating, it’s meaningful, and if we’re lucky, it might even be important.”

People long to derive satisfaction from their work. They want a mission to embrace.

The best workplaces, then, are places where work is not soulless or demeaning, but where we can find meaning and purpose. And when we find this, we find that it’s not just about personal satisfaction. It involves a sense of community, of participating in something bigger than ourselves. In that sense, work is “the hub of modern culture,” as Coalesse’s general manager, Lew Epstein, puts it.

Highly engaging workplaces welcome our ideas and our emotional investment. They respond to our common needs and reflect our personal sensibilities. They invite us to bring our outside experiences to bear on our work. 

Developing these successful workplaces depends on good workplace leadership—which includes giving people control over their experiences at work. According to the 2016 Steelcase Global Report, highly engaged employees have the flexibility to make meaningful choices about where and how they work.

That’s why we applaud the corporate café trend—companies creating spaces for people to work and interact informally in lounges and coffee shop settings without leaving campus. Mobile technology has made work more fluid, and these “third places”—whether located inside or out —are meeting a need in modern workplace culture.

It’s the need for options, for flexibility, for work settings that support different types of creativity and interaction at different times of day. 

        Spaces for social connection encourage us to share ideas and experiences. This work café, in the Steelcase office in Strasbourg, France, includes relaxed settings for socializing and collaborating, as well as areas for solo work. The space includes Massaud Lounge Seating, the Sebastopol Table and the Enea Lottus Sled Stool.

To dig deeper into space planning for the workplace as a cultural hub, view our Inspiration Gallery or Planning Ideas